rest in peace

#906: Since You’ve Been Gone

Dear Uncle Don Don,

A year ago today we got the message that you were gone.   My first thought was “at least he is not in pain anymore.”  I didn’t like that you had to suffer so much.  I’ve seen enough cancer in this life.

My next thought was for Grandma, and Mom, and Aunt.  They still miss you and talk about you.  Aunt says that it will be weird coming home to Waterloo without you around.  She says she used to like having her morning coffee when only the two of you were awake.  I can picture you guys sitting there quietly talking, and maybe even laughing a little.  That’s how I want to picture it, anyway.

I have a bunch of your CDs with me.  I really liked Jackyl.  I was surprised to find it in your collection.  Looking at your discs here, I have so many questions.  Why Jane’s Addiction?  Why the second Garbage album, and not the first?  Somebody here went to painstaking care to make you a mix CD, but why did she include “Who Let the Dogs Out”?  I’d really like to know your thoughts on that one!

Since you’ve been gone, I followed my dreams and started a YouTube show.  I chat with friends about music and I interview rock stars.  So far I’ve talked to two former members of Helix — a band we used to discuss in the old days.  You knew them long before I did.  Now here I am talking to them.  You were a part of my history with that band.  We also did an entire episode on Led Zeppelin.  That was another band you liked long before I discovered them.  You thought it was cool when I started picking up these old bands you had in your school days.  Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper, Deep Purple.

I still don’t like sports.  There’s something we never agreed on.  Even being married to Jen and watching all this hockey, baseball and football, I still don’t like sports.  I understand them a little better.  I could converse with you about hockey now.  It wouldn’t be the topic of my choosing, but I could do it.

We spent last summer quarantined between here and the cottage.  You used to love that place.  Long hair, no shirt, cutoff jean shorts.  One summer you were there for about three weeks straight.  I hope you would like what Kathryn has done with it.  She’s kept everything intact.  It’s not as manly as it was in your day, but everything is still there.  It’s a lot quieter.  We all got older!

If it wasn’t for this damned virus, we had an idea for a tribute last summer.  Maybe we can do it this summer, or next summer.  I wanted to buy a turntable for the lake, and play some of your old records in the back yard like you used to.  I kept putting it off, and putting it off, because we can’t socialize.  It’s been a weird year, man!  Grandma really wants a hug.  I’ll give her a big one soon, don’t worry.

Speaking of worry, she used to worry about you so much.  Though we all miss you, at least she’s not worrying about you anymore.  I know she’ll appreciate it when we can finally get together as a family again.  Tell Uncle Don stories in the living room.  Cutoff shorts in the summer, badminton raquet in one hand and a Labbatt’s in the other!  Right?

I don’t drink beer, but I think if you were here right now, healthy and young again, I’d have a beer with you.  I’d think I’d like that.

Best of 2020 Part 1: The Year in Review

Best of 2020 Part 1: The Year in Review

2020 was a learning experience!  I think I can speak for everyone there.  Before 2020 I never heard the phrase “flatten the curve”.  I’ve worn a face mask before, but only in a hospital.  Now I have a collection.  My theory is that Neil Peart was the glue holding the universe together.

“And when the music stops, there’s only the sound of the rain…”

Neil’s death was the first shitty thing that happened this year.  Losing the Professor.  It certainly set the tone for a year a loss.  A year that stole Eddie Van Halen, my uncle Don, and countless more.  We grieve the losses of not just people, but also daily ways of life.

I naively hoped this pandemic would bring us all closer together.  Instead it has divided us…some of us.  Not all.

Community.  My friend Aaron from the KeepsMeAlive is the champion of community, and this year we have seen the community come together like never before.  It warms my heart to see the genuine care that you have for everyone.  We all started just talking about music.  Now it’s something so much deeper, as we are huddled in isolation, but never isolated.

2020 also taught me that there are good people out there that you can count on.  They know who they are.  I’ve had to lean on a lot of people.  A few have had to lean on me.  Point being — we’re still standing!

Going out less meant more time to focus on listening and writing.  While the lists are still coming (stay tuned!), I can tell you that I both bought and reviewed more new releases in 2020, than any other year.  I’m happier with my year-end list than ever before, and I’ve expanded it from a top five to a top ten…a Nigel Tufnel Top Ten, in fact!

This has been a musically rich year.  There is usually one band, sometimes a handful, that defines my year.  My band of the Year would have to be Loudness, even though they didn’t release anything new.  So why “band of the year”?  The reasons are entirely personal, as they should be.  In early 2020, before Covid, I got really sick with a bad flu.  (Or was it Covid, who the fuck knows?)  As sometimes happens, music ran through my head when I was sick.  That music was “Let It Go” by Loudness which led to some deep dives into their discography.  In 2020 I bought and reviewed my first 10 Loudness albums, many from Japan, including a five disc box set.  No band defined my 2020 like Loudness did and I’m glad I got into them when I did.

The road forked with Loudness.  Not only did I explore their discography, but “Let It Go” then led to a left turn:  a deep analysis of the year I first heard that song, 1986.  A really key year in my life.  I wrote a big “1986 Saga” and felt like I had exorcised some ghosts.  Some of the most rewarding writing I’ve ever done in my life.

THE 1986 SAGA

I didn’t stop there, and I dove into another year:  1991.   It turns out people like reading personal history and how music ties into it.

Of course the virus and the lockdown also caused a different fork in the road, this one being the live streaming.  That has been its own reward.  So rewarding that they’ve earned their own lists this year, and I’ll present some for the best shows of the year in the coming days.

As bad as 2020 has been (undoubtedly the worst year in our collective lives), on a personal level it hasn’t been so bad.  People being indoors has driven traffic on the site way up, and this has been our most successful year yet in terms of hits.  But this has been earned: the writing and content on the site has improved with it.  I’ve learned more about personal health and mental health this year and was somewhat more prepared when lockdown began.  I hate to say it because it sounds like boasting, but as much as 2020 sucked, for me personally…I’ve had worse years.

Silver linings.

I feel very fortunate that in 2020, we didn’t lose anyone in my family to Covid.  Not to Covid.  But I did lose people.  Many of us did.  And there is a long way to go before this is all over.  So please, for me:  be safe.  Be smart.  We have to beat this thing and protect those we love.

We can do this.  In the memories of everyone we lost in 2020, please keep yourself and your loved ones safe.


 

REST IN PEACE

Donald Winter

Clifford Michael Woodhouse

Dorothea Daniels

Tina Schipper

Abigail Lobsinger

Neil Peart

Eddie Van Halen

Leslie West

Martin Birch

Steve Priest

Pete Way

K.T. Oslin

Jeremy Bulloch

David Prowse

Alex Trebek

John Prine

Charley Pride

Lee Kerslake

Gerry McGhee

Tommy Lister, Jr.

Ken Hensley

Jason Slater

Chuck Yeager

Fred Willard

Pat Patterson

Frankie Banali

Bob Kulick

Chadwick Boseman

Ben Bova

Johnny Nash

Spencer Davis

Sir Sean Connery

Kirk Douglas

Vera Lynn

Christopher Tolkien

Terry Jones

Reed Mullin

Freeman Dyson

James Lipton

McCoy Tyner

Max Von Sydow

Johnny Yune

Keith Olsen

Kenny Rogers

Joe Diffie

Bill Withers

Ellis Marsalis

Mort Drucker

Brian Dennehy

Little Richard

Betty Wright

Jerry Stiller

Astrid Kirchherr

Anthony James

Bonnie Pointer

Ian Holm

Joel Schumacher

Carl Reiner

Ennio Morricone

Grant Imahara

Regis Philbin

Peter Green

Wilford Brimley

Ben Cross

Justin Townes Earle

Helen Reddy

Mac Davis

James Randi

André Gagnon

Charlie Daniels

Chad Stuart


REMINDER!

Don’t forget tonight’s live stream “Christmas Memories”!  No bad, no ugly — just the good.

7:00 PM E.S.T.
Facebook:  MikeLeBrain  YouTube:  Mike LeBrain

 

 

 

 

 

Rest in Peace David Prowse (1935-2020)

I met David Prowse, the original Darth Vader, in 1978.

That’s not entirely true.  My dad met him and got his autograph for me while five-year-old me was terrified of the Dark Lord of the Sith.  Prowse signed it “Darth Vader”.  In fact nobody knew it was actually David Prowse, the real Vader, until the next day when it was in the newspapers.

Sears announced, to coincide with the latest wave of Kenner action figures, that “Darth Vader” was coming to the store to meet the kids and sign autographs.  (I got the brand new R5-D4 figure that night.)  It was typical for people in Star Wars costumes to show up at stores and wave to kids.  It was usually low budget.  This was anything but, as Prowse wore the real costume and even spoke.  If you’ve ever seen making-of footage, you know that Prowse spoke his lines on set before being overdubbed by James Earl Jones at the end of the process.  Jones, in fact, was not even credited in 1977.

Prowse is the forgotten Vader.  As a trained bodybuilder he was the right size to fill that towering suit.  All he lacked was the voice, but Vader was so much more than the voice.  He was also the body language and the sword fighting.  The sudden, deliberate movements.  The hacking and slashing that terrified Luke, and us as kids!

Prowse joins his friends Carrie Fischer, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, Sir Alec Guiness and Peter Cushing as he becomes one with the Force.  The rest of the world watches A New Hope one more time.  I think I’ll watch the original untampered cut as released on DVD.  I really hope my parents kept that autograph.

May the Force be with David Prowse.

Rest in Peace Uncle Don Don

My Uncle Don was the only rock n’ roller in the family.  When we were kids, we called him “Uncle Don Don”.  Our cousin Geoff already had an Uncle Don (my dad), so my mom’s brother became Uncle Don Don.  It’s just much simpler for kids if everybody has a different name.

Uncle Don had curly, flaming red hair.  Those Scottish roots.  In the old days he wore it long.  Come summer, he’d be at the cottage in nothing but a pair of old cutoff jean shorts.  Whether he was playing badminton with us, or just drinking a beer with the adults, he was always there with the jean shorts.

I can reveal now that it was Uncle Don who inspired a portion of Record Store Tales Part 2:  Gimme An R!

“Occasionally we would hear rumours.  Usually these ‘little known facts’ would come from that one uncle that everyone had, the one who wore no shirt, watched a lot of football, and had a handlebar moustache.  Usually this stereotypical uncle would say, ‘Yeah, Helix have been around a long time, like 20 years, I saw them when they were still a country band.  My buddy was in the band too.'”

Uncle Don was the very uncle who told me that Helix were once a country band.  That was him.  No shirt, football and that moustache!  Flaming red.  And jean shorts.

As I got older and into classic rock, we started to connect a little bit.  We were closer in the late 80s and early 90s.  He used to come over to the house and borrow tapes off me so he could record them.  He liked my Zeppelin and my Deep Purple.  From him, I recorded Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits — my very first Alice.  That happened in the summer of 1989, and I had no idea what to expect from Alice.  I also have a fond memory of us hanging out at the beach one afternoon, just the two of us.  It was a wavy day in August 1992.  I wonder if he wore the jean shorts that day too?

As the years passed, Uncle Don became more reclusive.  I had not seen him in many months.  He was not well.  Cancer was slowly starting to take him.  He knew he was going, and he knew he didn’t have many days left.  At least we had time to prepare.  My mom and aunt, and especially my grandmother, will miss him very much.  Uncle Don was the “baby of the family”, born much later than his two older sisters.  In many ways he had to live with being the “baby of the family” for his whole life.

Uncle Don passed away this afternoon at Freeport hospital in Kitchener.  As a family, we are all relieved that he is no longer in pain.  It is going to take time to process these feelings.  I worry about my grandmother, who still lived with him.  She is 95.  I spoke to her just yesterday.  She is prepared to go on without him, but I worry all the same.

There was nobody else in the family with long hair, listening to Alice Cooper.  It was nice having somebody else with the same tastes.  I thought a bit about what song he would have liked for this post.  I thought about “Over the Hills and Far Away” by Zeppelin, but I think I need a song for me this time. From Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits, it’s “Teenage Lament ’74”.  The song that jumped out at me immediately as something really special.  The song I played over and over again, trying to figure out the words.  The song that just inexplicably connected with me.  I thought it was neat that I was going into my teens, listening to the music he listened to in his teens.  I started collecting Alice Cooper immediately.  Trash was next, followed by Billion Dollar Babies, School’s Out and Welcome to My Nightmare.  Thanks for introducing me to Alice Cooper, Uncle Don.  You changed a life.  I will never forget you.

 

What a drag it is,
In these gold lame jeans.
Is this the coolest way,
To get though your teens?
Well I cut my hair weird,
I read that it was in.
I look like a rooster,
That was drowned and raised again.

What are you going to do?
I’ll tell you what I’m going to do.
Why don’t you get away?
I’m going to leave today.

I ran into my room,
And I fell down on my knees,
Well I thought that fifteen,
Was going to be a breeze.
I picked up my guitar,
To blast away the clouds,
Somebody in the next room yelled,
You got to turn that damn thing down.

What are you going to do?
I’ll tell you what I’m going to do.
Why don’t you get away?
Well I’m going to cry all day.

R.I.P. Bob Kulick (1950-2020)

Life is too short.  Don’t let your family stay estranged.  That is the lesson today as we mourn the passing of Bob Kulick from the KISS family.

Bob auditioned for KISS in 1973 and would have got the spot if a guy with one red and one orange shoe didn’t walk in next.  That man was named Paul “Ace” Frehley, but when Ace couldn’t do the job, Bob stepped in to help.  That’s Bob playing on a lot of Alive II‘s side four.  Then he played on Paul’s first solo album.

Bob helped his brother Bruce get into KISS in 1984.  Without Bob, KISStory would have been very different.  He also played with Meat Loaf, Graham Bonnett and many more.

Rest in peace Bob Kulick.

R.I.P. Kenny Rogers

When I was really young, my mom bought my grandpa a copy of Kenny Rogers’ Greatest Hits for Christmas.  He ended up getting two copies.  I liked the song “The Gambler”, so I asked my mom if I could have the extra copy.  Surprised, she gave it to me, and so in my earliest record collection, I had the Flintstones, Star Wars, and Kenny Rogers.

Several years later, after joining Columbia House music club, my mom purchased a new Kenny Rogers hits cassette for the car.  That’s when I discovered “Just Dropped In to See What Condition My Condition Was In”, a song that we first found hilarious and then realized was funky and cool. Lebowski just made it cooler.

Kenny Rogers passed away at age 81 peacefully at home. Known for his many hits like “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town”, “Lucille”, and his duets with Dolly Parton, country music will always remember Kenny Rogers.

Rest in Peace.

R.I.P. Reed Mullin (Corrosion of Conformity)

An incredible drummer from an incredible band, Reed Mullin had his demons.  Alcohol took him down, like so many before him.  Mullin, a founding member of Corrosion of Conformity, will be remembered by his rich hardcore and heavy metal discography.

In recent years as alcohol took its toll, Reed was absent from some COC performances and suffered a seizure in 2016. It was not looking good for the rock warrior, and now we know his particular battle has been lost.

Mullin drummed on one of my personal favourite albums, Deliverance, one of the best rock records of the 1990s.  From that album, here is “Albatross”.  Rest in peace Reed.

R.I.P. Ric Ocasek (1944-2019)

Sad news this morning, as we wake to find Ric Ocasek of the Cars has passed away at age 75.  Hard to believe the tall, jet-haired singer was in his 70s at all.  He always looked like a punk misfit.

The Cars formed in 1976 and had a steady stream of hits through the late 70s and early 80s.  When the cars folded he moved on as a producer and solo artist.  Ocasek produced such diverse albums as Bad Brains Rock for Light, and two of the most popular Weezer albums, Blue and Green.  Through these productions, his impact on modern rock cannot be overstated.

I always liked the Cars best, and so we’ll remember Ric today with one of his catchiest songs ever:  the summer anthem “Magic”.

Rest in peace Ric Ocasek.